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Last-Minute Valentine Mini Quilt

Valentine Envelope Mini Quilt

Need a last-minute creative Valentine’s gift you can put together in a hurry? Here’s a quick little 12″ x 12″ mini quilt you can make today and give to your honey tonight. The pattern was graciously given to us by Wendy Barnhart of SewManyQuiltsandThreads.com. Thanks, Wendy! Check out Wendy’s site to see a wide array of fabrics, threads, and other useful goodies for quilters. (Wendy also has a Nolting long-arm quilting setup for sale. If you are interested, please contact her through her website.)

How Much Fabric Will You Need?

Here’s what you need to make the quilt:

  • Grey squares: Two 5″ squares
  • Red squares: Three 5″ squares
  • Pink squares: One 5″ square
  • Pink Strips: Two strips 2-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ for the side borders, and two strips 2-1/2″ x 12-1/2″ for the top and bottom borders.
  • Optional: Pink scrap for an applique heart. You can use the extra pink fabric left from making the pink-and-red triangle block.
  • 14″ x 14″ piece of thin batting
  • 14″ x 14″ piece of coordinating backing fabric
  • Two 2-1/2″ strips of coordinating binding fabric. Cut both strips the full width of the fabric, from selvage to selvage.

How to Make the Quilt

  1. Make triangle blocks from the red, grey, and pink squares, then use a square ruler to trim them to 4-1/2″. See our half-square triangle block tutorial here. You will have one red-and-gray block and one pink-and-red block left over to use for other projects.
  2. (Optional) Print out this page and trace the heart shape to use as a pattern for your applique. Cut out the heart with scissors or your rotary cutter.
  3. Sew the center blocks together.
  4. Add the side border strips, then add the top and bottom border strips.
  5. Layer the quilt sandwich with backing fabric right side down, batting on top of the backing fabric, and the quilt top on top, with right side face up.
  6. Use fusible web, 505 basting spray, or a glue stick to fix the heart to the grey section of the bottom right red-and-gray triangle block. Use a straight stitch or zig-zag stitch to sew the heart to the block.
  7. Square up the quilt sandwich and trim off the extra batting and backing fabric.
  8. Sew on the binding. See our binding tutorial here.

All done! You’re ready to give someone special a one-of-a-kind Valentine’s greeting.


One of the skills new quilters seem to feel most nervous about is working with colors. How can you tell which colors go well together? I always recommend noticing which colors attract you and make you feel good. If you like a certain color combination in a painting or on a friend’s sofa, you will probably like those colors in a quilt, too.

There’s an App for Choosing Colors

My friend Lisa recently introduced me to a terrific free online tool for turning a photo into a color palette you can use to chose quilt fabrics. It’s called the Canva Color Palette Generator, and using it couldn’t be easier. You simply upload a photo you like to the Generator page. The page automatically creates a color palette drawn from the colors in your photo.

This Valentine’s mini Log Cabin quilt caught my eye as I was scrolling through eBay listings for unfinished quilt tops. I like bright colors, and something cheerful about this top really spoke to me. I also admired the amount of work the original maker put into piecing the top, even though it wasn’t a miracle of precision piecing. I bought the top and finished it into a Valentine’s mug rug.

Then I thought this quilt might make a good test case for the Color Palette Generator. Here’s what I got when I uploaded a photo of the quilt to the generator page:

Left to my own devices, I would not have thought up this combination of colors. The light and dark grays especially came as a surprise. But now that I see the colors together, I am very happy with them. And all I have to do is print it out this page and take it right to the fabric store.

If you have a photo or a quilt whose colors you really love, even if you can’t quite say WHY you love them, try the Color Palette Generator. You may be surprised by the colors it finds for you.


Practice Your Stitches with a Test Quilt Sandwich

Don’t you hate having to pull out the seam ripper?

It can be so frustrating to think your sewing is going perfectly, then you take a look at the back side of your quilt and see that you have a line of the little thread loops that indicate thread tension problems, or a tangled nest of threads that mean your thread has jumped out of your sewing machine’s uptake lever.

It’s also frustrating to start free-motion quilting and find yourself sewing jerky, crooked lines instead of beautiful, swirling ones.

That’s where a test quilt sandwich comes in.

What is a Quilt Sandwich?

If you haven’t heard the term before, a quilt sandwich is the three layers that make up a quilt:

  • Quilt top
  • Batting in the middle,
  • Backing fabric on the bottom.

The photo above shows a quilt sandwich with all three layers visible.

I make a layered sample that consists of a big scrap of plain muslin on top, cotton batting in the middle, and muslin on the back. I use muslin because the plain background makes it easy to see my stitches.

This test sandwich lives at my sewing table. I use it to try out new stitches before I start sewing on a quilt I’ve spent hours carefully putting together. The sandwich gets used over and over until I’ve filled in all the empty spaces — then I usually use it some more. The end result isn’t exactly pretty, but it has saved me many times from inflicting damage on my real quilt.

Here is a test sandwich I’ve been using for some time now:

And here are some situations where it’s helpful to use a test sandwich:

  • After putting in a new bobbin or top thread. Sew a test seam to make sure your thread is flowing smoothly. Check the back side of the sandwich to make sure you don’t have tension or threading problems.
  • Trying out a new stitch. I like to try new decorative stitches that I haven’t used before. Stitching a test seam shows me how the stitch actually looks on the fabric and lets me know if I have the sewing machine settings adjusted properly for that stitch.
  • Starting to machine quilt. When you free-motion quilt, it can take a few minutes to get back into the swing of making the smooth, steady movements that produce smooth, even lines on the quilt. Start out a machine-quilting session with a few minutes on your test sandwich, so you know the first stitches you make on your actual quilt will be good ones.
  • Using a new type of batting, thread, or fabric. Make your test sandwich out of the same materials you’re going to use in the actual quilt, so you can see how your stitches will look on the finished product.

I Quilt, Therefore I Hoard

“I quilt, therefore I hoard.” We posted this on our Facebook page recently, and it was so popular that we thought our blog readers might enjoy the joke too. Here’s what I wrote:

“Every time I go in the sewing room, I think to myself, “I’ve got to do something about all this fabric!” My favorite cleanup method is to start a new project. And then I find that even though I already have so much fabric, the new project really needs one new fabric that I just don’t have. And it’s off to the fabric store! How about you?

I have to laugh about this scenario, because it happens over and over.

Can I get an “Amen” from you, dear reader? No matter how much fabric you have, you never have that one particular fabric you need for your new quilt. And who can deny that the fabric store is a seductive place? All those beautiful colors and prints that look and even smell so crisp and new? All those clever new quilt patterns, all made up and hanging in the aisles for you to envy?

In a way, I envy the quilters who have the discipline to only buy what they need for the project they are working on. (Yes, there are a few quilters who do this.) But in a way, I love my fabric addiction. I have my fabric stored on a bookshelf so I can look at it from just about any angle in my quilting room. It’s a big part of the joy of quilting for me. How about you?

Looking for a quilting-related laugh? See all our original quilting memes on our meme page. 

Celebrate Red for Valentine’s Day thumbnail

I love red and I love hearts too, which is one reason why I like making quilts for Valentine’s day.

Red is a hot color, the color of blood, of sunsets, and of Mars, the ancient Roman god of War. In the west, red is the color of excitement, danger, and passion. In China and India, red is a lucky color traditionally worn by brides at their weddings. In India, red symbolizes purity. What a great color to make a quilt with!

Here’s some of my red stash:

And here’s the red Valentine rag quilt I just finished this morning.

This quilt (like a lot of my quilts) traveled a long and winding road before finally limping over the finish line.

It all started six years ago or more when I bought a large set of cutter quilt hearts on Ebay. There must have been a hundred of them. I’ve been slowly using them to make quilts. The appliqued hearts on this quilt are the very last of those cutter hearts.

I made the center part of the quilt last year. Like some of my other early rag quilts, though, it felt a little too small and the regular grid of rag blocks felt just a touch too regular. Also, the fringed outer edge didn’t look fringy enough to satisfy me.

So this week I added a border made from four different reds and put a deeper fringe around the outside of the quilt. Now it’s big enough for cozy snuggling.

This quilt is backed with polyester fleece, which is my favorite way to make a really warm and soft quilt that can be machine washed. I like that I can make rag blocks with smaller pieces of fleece that aren’t quite big enough to back an entire quilt. Mixing a variety of compatible colors on the back also gives an interesting color effect to the ragged seam allowances around the blocks. It doesn’t look quite as good on the back, but I don’t worry too much about that because I usually see only the front side of the quilt.

After adding the borders, I stay stitched all around the outside of the quilt, two inches from the outer edge. I used my rotary cutter to cut the fringe freehand. Then I threw it in the washing machine on the shortest delicate cycle to fray the ragged edges.

Now I’m ready to make another Valentine quilt. How about you?

Learn all about how to make a rag quilt in our best-selling book, Rag Quilting for Beginners.

Post originally published January 31, 2012.

Valentine Heart String Decorations thumbnail

Valentine Heart String Detail 2 Large

Valentine’s day is coming! Today I had to admit that it’s time to finally take down my beloved snowflake garland that hangs in our living room window during and after the Christmas season. It’s time to put up something — anything — that celebrates red, or pink, or hearts, or love, or friendship.

This is what I made this morning: a hanging string of hearts. (I actually made two strings, but only photographed one)Valentine Heart String VerticalNext step will be a garland of hearts to hang horizontally over our dining table. Making these strings took me about an hour, all told, and it was satisfying because I’ve had this in mind for quite a long time. Here’s to realizing ambitions!

Here’s how I made these hearts. I bought a half-price set of cardboard hearts at the local big-box fabric store for about a dollar to use as a template. I could have drawn my own, but from past experience I know that my hearts always turn out very uneven looking. At this time of year, you can find inexpensive hearts to trace at any fabric or crafts store. Valentine Heart String Template Large

I had some double-sided stiff fusible interfacing left over from making a case for my husband’s Kindle. I cut this up into six-inch squares:

Valentine Heart String Cutting Interfacing

I also cut up my red-and-white fabric and a white backing print into six-inch squares, then fused them onto the stiff interfacing. Using a thin black gel pen, I traced around the heart onto the back side of the square.

Valentine Heart String Marking BackNext, I cut out the heart shape with pinking shears to give them a pretty zig-zag edge. You could finish them with a satin stitch for a fancier look.

Then I took them to my sewing machine and sewed the hearts together by stitching a vertical line down the center of each heart. When I reached the bottom point of one heart, I just stitched off it and onto the next one, leaving a little extra thread in between so the hearts would dangle freely.

With a pair of sharp embroidery scissors, I poked a hole in the top heart of the string and pushed the loop of ribbon through the hole. 

And that was that! I think I will add a few more hearts to the next strings.

Valentine Heart String Detail Large


Originally published February 7, 2013. 

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